Thousands of Christians Pilgrim to Israel to Celebrate Nation as Part of Feast of Tabernacles

( [email protected] ) Oct 15, 2014 06:24 PM EDT
Israeli Night 'Feast of Tabernacles' in Jerusalem
Participants in "Israeli Night" celebrate as part of the Feast of Tabernacles. Christian pilgrims at a Feast of Tabernacles event at Jerusalem's Pais Arena. October 13, 2014. (Courtesy ICEJ) 

Over 5,000 Christian pilgrims from 80 different countries met on Tuesday to celebrate their bond with Israel in Jerusalem's new Pais Arena.

The event, titled "Israeli Night," was organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a group established in 1980 to represent millions of Christians, churches and denominations to Israel and its people. "Israeli Night" is celebrated annually as part of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Attendees were able to enjoy music, visits to holy sites, and study and prayer sessions. Those in attendance also took part in a march through Jerusalem and heard addresses by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, as well as by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via video link.

Guests included the 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers who were kidnapped by terrorists in September and freed after Qatar paid a $25 million ransom, and Jewish, Christian and Druze IDF paratroopers who served in Operation Protective Edge.

"There are some amazing people here, some heroes of the faith who have risked their lives for what they believe," says Dr. Andrew Nolan, who has attended the event for the past four years.

"Their testimonies are an inspiration to stand strong in the faith."

Featured speakers included heavyweights such as American evangelist Dr. Robert Stearns, who encouraged the audience to voice their support for the nation.

"We must rise to action in the defense of Israel!" he said, "We must vote, demonstrate and lift our voices in the press!"

According to ICEJ's website, the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to celebrate the "recognition of the hand of God in Israel's modern day restoration and the need to work with what God is doing, and bless it." According to the Associated Press, this year's feast was the largest in seven years, despite Israel's conflict with Gaza, which ended less than two months ago.

"It's an encouraging statement of solidarity," ICEJ media director David Parsons told The Times of Israel.

Judy Russell, the personal assistant to Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, the leader of Australia's Christian Democratic Party, came with a group of 22 pilgrims touring Israel for two and a half weeks.

"We're here because of our love of the God of Israel as he brings his people home," she said.

"It is our mission to bless Israel. In Australia, people are being manipulated by the Palestinian message. It is the job of people like us to educate others about Israel's side," Russell added.

Others agree that is important to support Israel regardless of media bias.

"Israel is misunderstood and often painted in a poor light," says Adam Roussan, who traveled from England for the celebration.

"It is important that Christians voice our support for the nation of Israel and continue praying for continued peace and safety despite the lies we may hear from the media."

ICEJ raises millions of dollars to assist Jews around the world, most recently from India and Ukraine. During this summer's conflict with Hamas, the organization provided portable bomb shelters and other assistance to Israeli communities on the Gaza border. ICEJ also runs a full-care residence for 70 Holocaust survivors in Haifa.